Panzanella is one of if not the king of summer salads. It highlights the best of in-season summer produce along with what you love from delicious bread/croutons. Traditionally this is an old Italian peasant dish that utilized old stale bread and fresh garden bounty to make a hearty meal. If done right this will be your go-to meal for home and parties. Just make sure not to add the bread too early (more on that below). Thank us later when you eat this and it changes your life. :)
1/2- 1 loaf of bread depending on load size (roughly 5 cups) You must use a crusty more rustic bread/focaccia bread, not sliced sandwich bread.
1 container cherry tomatoes sliced in half or whole
1-2 large heirloom or slicing tomatoes cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cucumber sliced thin
1 bell pepper sliced thin
1/2 onion sliced thin
1 cup of fresh basil chopped
1/4 cup of balsamic or red wine vinegar (more or less to taste, you can always add more)
1/4 cup of olive oil for dressing + 2 tablespoons for bread
2 cloves of garlic one for salad + one to season bread
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional but recommended additions:
1/2 cup kalamata olives (pits removed)
1/4 cup capers
Meat of your choice to have on the side - either baked or grilled - Chicken breast, turkey tenders or fish all work well. (optional as this is just a side to the salad)
1 cup cheese - Fresh mozzarella adds some protein to this dish.
1 cup of rinsed arugula or salad greens (if you want a more green salad like version)
This dish comes together pretty quick and can be done in stages or all at ones.
1 - Take your 1/2-1 full loaf of bread and chop it or rip it (we like the rustic rip) into bite sized chucks. In a large bowl add 1 head of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil, and a good sized pinch of salt and pepper. Mix to combine then toss your bread into this mixture until nicely coated. Note, this dish traditionally was done with old stale bread, you can use fresh, but don’t pass on making this if your bread is old, it is a great way to use it up!
2 - Toast the bread - You have 3 options here. All achieve a similar result. Option one: Turn your oven on 350 and bake on a tray the coated bread until the brown slightly and begin to crisp (but still have some chew to them). This option is the easiest, but if you want to avoid a warm oven on hot summer days then try option 2 and 3. Option 2: Place a wide sauté pan on medium high heat and toss your bread on that for about 5 minutes until you achieve the same crispiness as the oven method listed above. Option 3: Grill the bread, just be careful not to blacken it too much. A small amount of char is fine, but watch closely. Once you have crisped your bread in 1 of the 3 methods, set aside and proceed to the next step.
3. Panzanella is normally a vegetarian dish, but if you want a protein on the side we suggest cooking it now. We love grilling fish, chicken, turkey filets, steak, or sausage with some simple lemon salt and pepper and serving on the side. You can also bake or pan fry your protein. Get creative or skip this step all together and proceed to step 4.
3. In a large bowl add your vinegar and olive oil along with another pinch of salt and pepper. Next chop all your veggies (leaving the tomatoes the same size as the bread chunks, but everything else sliced more finely. Toss all your veggies into the bowl along with any additions like capers and olives. Mix till well combined.
4. Right before you are ready to serve the dish, and not a minute earlier toss your crispy bread with the veggies and dressing. Serve immediately! The bread when first served is crispy but as you eat it soaks up more and more dressing, if you dress it too early the bread will be come soggy. It is still delicious, but preferred. Note, if making for a crowd make the salad and the bread, but toss the bread when you arrive to the party or serve to your guests. Or toss half of it and do it again after the first wave had eaten. ENJOY!